• Jackson Bouttell

Volvo Ocean Race, Leg 3, Onboard Blog

I felt more relief than nervousness leaving the pontoon in Abu Dhabi. There were of course a few butterflies in the stomach setting off for 20-25 days at sea in a 65ft carbon-fibre skiff, but this is something I have wanted to do for so long I was ready to leave. The decision for me to be onboard was only made around a week before the start and the build up was a nerve racking time of yes’s, no’s and maybe’s, so the final confirmation was a great relief.

My role onboard was in the pit for the in-port and start of the leg, then moving into a trimming and driving role once we were under way. It was quite a lot to get head around, as all the guys have been sailing the boat for a long time now and I needed to work it out pretty quickly. I made a few errors here and there, but was ok in general I think. It’s a great experience every time I get to helm the boat, but I also find it a bit nerve racking. I’m sure everyone onboard knows very well if I am driving fast or too slow, but I haven’t been kicked off yet, so hopefully it’s not so bad.

The third night out has been the most memorable for me. I was woken up for my watch at 0200 in the morning and was hit with that initial feeling of WHY do I sailing offshore, still mostly asleep pulling on some wet weather gear. That feeling soon wore off as I got on deck and had woken up a bit. We had nice downwind conditions with the A3 spinnaker up, Brunel was close behind and there were more stars in the sky than I had seen for a long time. It was my turn to steer, we now had 20-23 knots of wind speed and 20-23 knots of boat speed. Dongfeng was screaming along into the night with just the sounds of the hull booming through the sea, waves crashing down the deck and Pascal Biddegory or ‘the Hawk’, as I have come to think of him as, calling out Brunel’s AIS position and speed.

I think normally when you think of a Volvo leg your mind jumps to big speeds, cold weather and icebergs, but this leg had changed that to scorching hot conditions and a lot of debris in the water. As we neared Malaysia the amount of rubbish and debris in the water is unbelievable. The rubbish is not nice to see, but the debris is a real concern for us and we have sailed within meters of entire trees and nets. A big portion of your watch is spent on look out, this is super important as a big log could easily break a rudder and if it hit the hull it could be worse.

The other thing is the heat, wow. It is just inescapable, it is hot on deck with the light winds not helping to cool anything down and then in your off watch coming down stairs feels like opening the door on your oven when your cooking, but then not getting to shut it again. A few hours per day we need to switch on the engine for charging, when this happens you seem to wake up in a pool of sweat and have quickly go on deck to try to cool down. Maybe I am crazy, but I am loving every minute of it!!!

All for now from Dongfeng, Jack

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